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I Don’t Want to Get Big and Bulky: Fitness Marketing and its Effect on Women

I imagine people are laughing when they see me in the coffee shop, propped back reading Women’s Health or Fitness magazine.

I’m perfectly okay with this as I have my reasons for maintaining a subscription to said magazines.  It’s not for the training or nutritional advice, nor is it to improve my sex life.  I mainly read these magazines because I don’t quite understand women.

No male does.  However, I long to get a glimpse of what’s going on between their ears, at least from a fitness standpoint.

On the other hand, one thing I do understand quite well is marketing and sales psychology.

I also know how to write a training program and give someone dietary advice that’s inline with their goals.

What I’m finding in the magazines, on TV, and on the products we continually see in the retail outlets, are not necessarily in line with what it takes to get great results – especially when it comes to the female physique.

There are a few problems that I hope to shed some light on today with this article.

  1. Resistance/Strength training should be a must in any female’s fitness routine who wishes to alter her body composition for the better.  If the goal is to maintain a lean(er), “toned’ physique, some type of resistance training is a MUST.  We’ll discuss what is best and what is awful later on.
  2. Most traditional forms of media are either rehashing old, outdated information OR are pushing your emotional triggers to BUY, instead of making a rational decision.  In these cases, making the sale is of far greater importance than what the product can actually do for you.

Females and Strength Training

Maybe I’m making a bold statement here, but one of the biggest misconceptions, to this day, are how women shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights.  It’s not uncommon to see females in the gym lifting tiny dumbbells and doing lots of cardio.

Why is this?  It’s simple – they’ve all been told that lifting heavy weights is reserved for the boys and if they do as we do, they’ll look like us.

So, if they don’t want to look like us, they should clearly do the opposite, right?

Wrong.

While heavy weights, combined with a hearty diet is often the recipe for males to pack on size and  muscle mass, it’s not a similar situation for females.  And the reason is because of our hormonal profiles.  I’ve written on this before, but it bears to be repeated.

A female produces a tiny fraction of the testosterone that a male does.  Since testosterone is the main determinant of the ability to grow in size and strength, it only makes sense that someone with much lower levels (women) will never achieve the same size as someone with much more of it (men).

The only way this is remotely possible is through exogenous use of testosterone and other anabolic compounds (steroids, shhh!).

Of course, there are outliers – the occasional female who has slightly more testosterone than the average woman, but they’re few and far between.  These are usually girls who are typically drawn more so to athletics and training, and thus have more muscular bodies as a result.

But even then, I don’t find those bodies to be unattractive or even “bulky” as one might describe a male’s body.

I have various females on strength training routines, some of them actually lift more than many men, and none of them possess a physique anywhere near the resemblance of a “bulky” man.

Despite the evidence pointing against a female’s ability to get jacked, false information is always being spread.

Just the other day as I was getting my haircut, the girl taking care of me started asking me fitness questions.  Here is a paraphrase of what she said:

“Okay, so I’m trying to slim down – I was told NOT to do any heavy lifting as it will make me really bulky.  I was told to focus on high reps and really low weight.”

Now, I don’t know who told her this, but they were likely someone who heard that heavy weights are responsible for making people huge, thus it would do the same for a female.

As I look at my phone, I have a text message from one of my girlfriends that reads:

“Squats with 10lb weights – how many sets of 12 should I do?”

My response was:

“You should be lifting heavy weights – 5×5.”

I didn’t hear back from her so I have no idea what she’s doing now.

Problem is, it’s this type of misinformation that forever keeps ladies from their physique goals. It’s this exact thinking that will keep women on the treadmills and lifting the silly, pink dumbbells forever with no results to show for it.

So who’s to blame?  I blame trainers and fitness folk who don’t stay up to date with current information, but I mostly blame the world of fitness marketing.  Why?  Just check some of these images below.

All the way up to 8lbs!

4lbs of walking weights!

Great Marketing.  Mediocre Results.

So what do you notice about each image?  There is a fit female, with an attractive physique, and they’re all using weights you could lift before you could speak.

Now ladies, do you really think those baby weights will produce the stimulus responsible for the firm, hard body you long for?  If you’re answer is no, then you’re clearly “in-the-know.”

From here, I think we can agree there’s obviously a disconnect between what actually works, and what is being pimped.  These products are merely made to sell.

You’re better off hiring a coach, learning the basic barbell lifts and following a tried-and-true strength training routine as opposed to wasting your dough on cheap gimmicks.
So what exactly is going on here?

It’s pretty simple.  Humans are visual beings and every good marketer knows this.  It’s why every one of those super long sales pages (that actually converts) is FULL of before and after pictures.  Why?  If we can see the results for ourselves, it provides an element of proof that whatever they are selling actually works.

In all my studies, testimonials are by far, one of the best marketing tools ever.

Now, it doesn’t really matter if the testimonials are real or fabricated – if they are believable to us, we’re more apt to buy.

Heck, even if they don’t seem totally believable, the more you see, the more convinced you become.  It’s why those sales pages are SO LONG.

As you will notice in one of the images, Jillian Michaels is holding a few small dumbbells.  What we have here is the celebrity factor.  Jillian is known around the world as a super trainer.  She’s trained stars.  She’s been on the TV show, The Biggest Loser.  So in most people’s eyes, for having such stardom, she must know her stuff, right?

Well maybe, maybe not.  I’m not here to judge her on what she’s doing or how she’s getting results with others, but I bet she doesn’t have her clients using baby weights.  And I imagine she is likely not using these weights in her own training, either.

The problem here is not affecting the informed fitness pro or even the avid fitness enthusiast.  It’s hurting the ladies who simply want to lose some weight, improve their appearance and get fit again.

Because this type of information tends to sell much better than what I or many other fitness folk might prescribe, the ladies who need our information most will probably never find it.

They’ll continue doing pump sets with 5lb dumbbells and will never achieve the figure they want – they’ll never get close to Jillian’s physique because that shape requires resistance training of some sort, period.

And Then We Have Plain Bad Advice

For one, if you click on this image (opens in a new window), you’ll see a snippet of a magazine article interviewing Jennifer Aniston.  When asked about her workout, she explains the advice her Pilates instructor gave her about post-workout nutrition.  Quote directly from the article:

“And my Pilates instructor said if you don’t want to build muscle, wait about an hour to eat after you work out so your muscles are leaning as opposed to building.”

Okay, so first I’m asking myself “what in the world does ‘leaning’ mean in this context?”

I get what she is saying, but the ideology is flawed.  After many conversations with Alan Aragon, it seems that as long as calorie goals (protein and macro requirements) are met by the end of the day, nutrient timing is not as big of a deal as we once thought.

You often here the phrase ‘long and lean’ muscles as opposed to ‘bulky’ when describing the look a female often aspires to.  And here’s the problem.  We cannot physically change the length of our muscles too much.

Sure, some stretching will make you more limber and restricting movement for long periods will cause muscles to shorten, but never to the point of making a drastic visual difference.

So the idea of creating ‘long and lean’ muscles is just bad terminology BUT it sounds great to women because that is, after all, what most want – that hard, lean physique.

I don’t know exactly what she meant.  Maybe she is caught up in the old idea that if you wait an hour to eat after intense exercise, you’ll be burning more body fat from EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption).

However, we’ve since learned that the difference in calorie burn is minimal, and in my opinion, some better advice would be to simply take care of your post workout nutrition with a few pieces of fruit and some lean protein (some animal or a shake is fine with me) as soon as you get a chance to eat.

However, I am not training Jennifer Aniston, so perhaps I need to take some tips from her Pilates instructor…

Traditional Media and Marketing

As you will see on this cover, there are plenty of headlines that will get many women to buy.  I mean, who doesn’t want a “toned tummy, arms and thighs in 20 minutes”? Who doesn’t want to “kiss cellulite goodbye?”

What I love about traditional media in the women’s fitness genre is the stellar formula.  Great headlines + an awesome picture of a half naked lady + great ad copy = $$$$.  Now don’t go quoting me on that one, but it’s seems pretty standard to me.

While we don’t have a ton of research on metabolism, nutrient requirements for athletes, etc, we have enough to help us draw some conclusions and most importantly, get positive results.

I usually thumb through these magazines in hopes of finding some amazing advice from a new up and coming author, attempting to bring the masses up to date but I’m always disappointed.

In fact, in the June issue of Women’s Health, it happened again.  I started reading an article and was getting pretty excited – all up until the end.  So I want to break it down, give you the gist of it, and why I wish they’d let me write for them – just once!  Give me once chance!

So the article’s title was Eat More, Weigh Less! It was actually one of the cover stories.  It consisted of 5 steps to No Cravings, No Crankiness, Just Results!

Here’s the breakdown with my thoughts.

  1. I will eat it if it grows on a tree, or a bush or a stalk or a vine. They’re main premise here was to get people focused on eating whole, natural foods such as fruits and veggies as opposed to processed junk.  They’re advice was to eat these foods first in your meals due to the satiety factor.While I still see people overeating from not tracking their intake, I don’t think it’s terrible advice.  Everyone should be eating more fruits and veggies as opposed to processed options.
  2. I will eat protein with every meal and snack. I particularly liked this one, too.  Any female looking to change her body composition for the better should be getting a steady dose of protein.  For one, any intense fitness routine is going to increase our protein requirements.The only part I didn’t care too much for were their suggested requirements.They stated one should consume .54-1g of protein per pound of body weight.  I would err on the higher side, simply because one  who is active, and especially those lifting weights will need more along the lines of 1g per pound of body weight depending on their goals.
  3. I will eat before and after exercise. This is just common sense here.  Sandwiching your workout sessions with a dose of protein and carbohydrates is a great way to ensure adequate recovery.
  4. I will become a salad savant. This one falls in line with rule #1.  We should all be eating more leafy greens.  Not only for the micronutrients, but for the satiety they can provide when looking to lose body fat and improve our body composition.
  5. I will never have the world’s worst breakfast. To them, the worst breakfast was no breakfast at all.  They even made a claim “regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk for obesity by 450 percent.”  I don’t know where they got that from, but it’s pretty outlandish.The main thing I hate about this part is when they say “if you don’t eat (breakfast), you lower your metabolism, starve your muscles, and wind up taking in most of your calories late in the day.


In fact, in another article titled How To Get Jennifer Aniston’s Bikini Bod (published 2/8/2010), under the diet section, it reads:

To replicate a lean body — especially in your 40s — you’d have to eat an “extremely clean diet” that is high in protein and consists of many small meals to keep the metabolism going, Di Palma says.

And this is where I wish we could get some recent research to explain how skipping breakfast (or any other meal) is not as detrimental as we once thought.  I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting (where I don’t eat until about 12 – 1 p.m.) for a few years now and have never experienced any negative effects on my metabolism to date.  It’s clearly stated in research that resting energy expenditure (metabolism) can even increase with short-term fasting.

Another reason I wish this would stop being published is because of what it tends to do to folks’ psyche.  They read that we should NEVER skip breakfast because it will be detrimental to our health/metabolism.

So, it often puts us in a place of fear – the fear that if we don’t do something a certain way, we can’t get the results we want so badly.   I live in a world with very few absolutes.  Why?  It’s because there are always many ways to skin a cat.  Why choose only one method when another one, that works just as well, can be both beneficial and easy to follow?

So What Now?

If I haven’t spurred you to think a little more about how marketing affects you as a female after 2500 words of my incessant banter, then I’m not sure if anything will.

But this is what I hope to leave you with.  Marketing plays a huge role in your decisions on a daily basis.  Most of the models gracing the covers of women’s fitness publications are doing much more than the occasional 20-minute workout to achieve the physique they have.

I know ladies who are busting their tails in the gym 4-5 days per week to achieve the same look you see on the covers.  I have written programs for them so I know exactly what they’re training entails.  If I haven’t worked with them, I know who their trainers are and what they have them doing.

There is no secret – the physiques gracing the covers are a product of progressive strength training routines, not 10 minutes of 5lb dumbbell curls followed by an hour of the elliptical.  Some of these girls are very strong and will never be as bulky a male.

So the next time you pick up that magazine or get ready to buy a product with a pretty figure promoting it, step back and ask yourself – “is this really what I need or am I giving in to awesome copywriting and a dashing physique?”

Oh and if you feel the need to ask questions or send some hate mail, contact me anytime.

The Fitness Consumers Advocate
JC Deen

About the author

JC Deen

JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer out of Nashville, TN. Get more from JC here: Twitter | Facebook| JCD Fitness

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150 comments
Kat - November 3, 2013

I’m apparently very late on this post and your related marketing one but I just wanted to say that I really love reading about stuff like this.

You can kind of see from my blog that I’ve been posting almost exclusively about fitness marketing and the most popular tactics used in the various forms of media. Mostly focused on women as well since that’s honestly where 75% of the effort goes. (when it comes to magazines anyway)

One of the most interesting things I’ve found that I can’t explain is that in women’s advertising, the word “exercises” isn’t used – “moves” is the term used almost exclusively. Whereas for men’s advertising they don’t shy away from “exercise” “workout” “training” etc.

Also the phrase “Lose Your Belly” was used 4 separate times in 3 months by women’s magazines covers from August -> November. That’s a fun fact.

Anyway, I really enjoyed seeing someone else write about these topics. Do you know of anyone else who talks about popular fitness advertising / media?

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    JC Deen - November 5, 2013

    I’m glad you liked this. I really love reading about marketing, too. I don’t know anyone else talking about fitness marketing, but then again, I don’t pay much attention to the fitness space these days.

    Reply
Lisa - October 8, 2013

I spent most of my teenage and adult years doing every new diet and exercise video, light weights and high reps. I joined at gym 6 months ago, got myself some professional help and started lifting heavy weights 3-4 times per weeks. I’ve already started seeing amazing results. I’m 43 and for the first time in my life actually on track to achieving the body I want. JC is right, women need to stop reading the hype and doing every fad exercise/diet regime advertised in women’s magazines. Ladies – join a gym, get good professional help and be prepared to put in the long term effort.

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kara - March 13, 2013

Very interesting. I will be reading this: http://www.jcdfitness.com/2010/02/the-muscle-building-guide-for-women/ and look forward to the next one.

I have recently started CrossFit after 2 high risk pregnancies and through that I was introduced to lifting. In my quest to rebuild my core muscles and the rest of me I started CrossFit and have become quite interested in lifting. I find it quite fun and enjoy the challenge of trying to go up a few pounds. The box I go to offers lifting classes which I have started going to as well. While I can’t lift very much at the moment I am to be able to do some decent lifting by the end of the year.

I am finding it extremely frustrating as I was very fit and sporty before the pregnancies and being forced to lie in bed for months was torture but also robbed me of my muscle mass, my muscle tone and much of my flexibility. We take it for granted when we have it but it is a B*TCH to get back.

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Heather - February 28, 2013

I really enjoyed this article, I’ve recently starting lifting and LOVE it. But it was a long journey…always wanting to lose the weight, never getting good advice, hours of cardio, 1200 calories a day.

I really wish that more people understood the concept that strength training is an important part of any successful workout plan. Especially one in which you want your whole body composition to change.

But, I feel like it was kind of a teaser…yes…all the above is true…don’t listen to the nasty marketing people…only sweat and hard work will get you where you want to be. But do you have any suggestions especially for women?? Any articles on that subject?

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Fin - January 22, 2013

This is a great article. I’ve been looking for an article about working out and the whole craze with the ‘lean and toned, but skinny’. I found most articles I read sounded like rubbish, even though I don’t know much science to it. All I knew was I am a small female 5ft 3 at 98lbs and have been looking to gain muscle strength and maybe some weight. All the articles I read talked about ‘loosing weight (when the person isn’t all that big to begin with) and ‘toning it up’ ” Nothing ever talked about gaining strength in anything, which never made any sense to me at all. If you’re going to exercise for the benefit of your body why not get some goodness from it, not just melting away that belly roll?

So…do you have any tips for a small person looking to build some muscle and gain some strength, maybe some endurance as well?

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Bolivar - January 19, 2013

I read this article word for word. To sum it up briefly: In my 20’s – I did zero weight lifting because I thought it would bulk me up. 30’s – I did little bitty weights because (like it was demonstrated above) THOSE weights came with the box and I assumed I would get the same results as I saw on the box (dumb!). In my 40’s – due to a medical condition, I could either take drugs at $200 a month or figure out how to incease my bone density another way. I chose the latter and FORCED myself to start liting heavier weights because I was told it would be great for my medical condition.

My weight June 2012 was 162lb at 5’2″ / this after having worked out 17 (seventeen) years five days a week and having subscribed to Fitness / Shape for YEARS!!

Started weight liting (seriously weight lifting) June 2012. I prayed to lose 7 pounds. Now, January 2012: I am down 20 pounds and my body figure has TAKEN OFF!! Is it perfect No = still workin’ on the abs. But the rest of me is so rock solid that my doctor couldn’t scan my leg due to all my muscle and sent me instead for an MRI.

We have been sold a crock of you-know-what by the media. I am upset that I bought it (literally / figuratively) for so many years. I never worked with a weight above 8 pounds – EVER – until this past summer. I didn’t even know I had permission!! And all those years at gyms I allowed my fear to get the best of me and stayed away from the guys in the weight room.

Today – I am in WITH the guys. The women, I haven’t seen 15 different women in the weight room yet – it’s always the same ones of us lifting the HEAVY weights. Others come and go for 10 minutes at a time and leave after doing a couple dumbells. I have a very athletic physique and figured out I bulk up pretty darn fast. My legs are not “lean” and my shoulders are built. I LOVE IT!!! I accept that is the body size for me – it is my path of least resistance to be me and not a magazine cover.

My quick stats: June 2012 I could squat 15 pounds. Today, I squat 60 pounds. June 2012 I arm curled 5 pounds and today 17 pounds. June 2012 I could bench press 15 pounds and today 55 pounds. June 2012 I could leg press 40 pounds – today 100 (you read that right) pounds. I use free weights or machines that are NOT cable assisted.

This article makes me cry if only for the fact that I wasted so much time trying to create a body that is not genetically designed for me – and so have other women. We are not a photoshop project. My ideal shape will never grace the cover of a mass maket “womens health” magazine – but it would an athletic magazine. Let’s see them stick MY current weights in a box and market that!

This blog is the best thing on the net!! Thank you for the time in writing it and allowing me to add my long two cents.

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Alyona - July 30, 2012

I would add that the image of ‘healthy’/’fit’/attractive woman is somewhat too thin now, if not anorexic. Look at their arms, legs etc. Sometimes, on the contrary, they have such a sixpack, that you just see it’s not possible without, well, juice. Christine Beauchamp aka thecookiemonster (wordpress blog) have written a lot about feminity, being fit and marketing images. I suggest you read this if you haven’t yet.

As for myself, weighting heavy just changed my life, helped me to beat anorexia and probably some other inner demons. I think it’s a long romance.

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    JC Deen - July 30, 2012

    I think you’re generalizing with the first few statements.

    Good for you on creating a positive experience through strength training. :)

    Reply
Anthony - The Body Blogger - June 24, 2012

I think the message is slowly getting through. I am often seeing more and more women performing heavy lifts and olympic lifts and looking much better for it. Women who use Crossfit are a really good example, just watch a few youtube videos. Nice article, good job :)

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Fitness In Charlotte NC - October 5, 2011

Excellent article!!
We are effectively more used to read advices from those same magazines which makes us even more vulnerable to what they say (and so their marketing campaigns) !
There should be more analysis just like your among the fitness’ world advices…

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    JC Deen - October 5, 2011

    thanks for the comment! glad you enjoyed the article.

    Reply
Toni - September 22, 2011

Hey JC,

Great article. I have a comment and a question. Here’s the question: will lifting weights help me in the um, boobage (sorry to be so blunt) department? Will chest exercises help pump up my pectoral muscles making me look a little bigger? I’m kind of small um, *cough* up there if you know what I mean. I lost some weight recently and my chest got a wee bit smaller – unfortunately.

Anyway, my comment is this: I watch a lot of informericals late at night and it always amazes me when they show the women (who you know darn well are fitness models, lol) using these baby featherlight weights and you think to yourself, ‘yeah, riiiiight, she got that way by lifting 2 lb. dumbbells’. How stupid do they think the general public is?

One informerical in particular angered me because it was a kettlebell program and they stated that the lighter kettelbell was for women when you order and the heavier one was for men. Could they be any more insulting?

Also, this happened to me recently. I went to the local hardware store and bought a bag of water softener salts. The gentlemen who owns the store offered to carry it to my car – A WHOLE FIVE FEET FROM THE FRONT DOOR. Can you imagine?!? When I politely declined, he stated quite emphatically that it (the bag) must weigh over 40 lbs. and a women of my small stature couldn’t possibly carry something that heavy (I’m paraphrasing here). Rolling my eyes at him, I proceeded to hoist the bag over my one shoulder and used my foot to push the store door open. I heard nothing but a few snickers from some of the younger guys who basically said to him, ‘well, she showed you.’ ‘Nuff said. :)

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    JC Deen - September 22, 2011

    funny story. and sorry, no. lifting weights will not help your bust size..

    Reply
Jody - Fit at 53 - September 9, 2011

Great post! I am one of the women that can pack on muscle – or should I say when I was younger. Age does inhibit how you put on muscle even if you lift heavier, at least in my experience. I Can still build but not like I could when I was younger. Course, my program was to exercise & eat for gaining. What women don’t realize like you said, many can’t & yes, some can IF you make your program to gain like I did. If you want to lift & not get big but you are one like me, there are ways to build a program around that. Everyone is different so the key is to find what works for your body & just do it! :-) Skipping resistance training is not good in terms of long term health too for the bones & just being able to do everyday things. I will be 54 in November & I can do things that people in their 30’s can’t do…..

Keep spreading the word! :-)

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Ashley - September 9, 2011

Jennifer, you need to eat more!

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Jennifer - September 7, 2011

I used to lift the heaviest weights I could. I managed to do 125kg squat and 80kg deadlifts. I also incorporated kettlebells into my workout. I’m 5’3 and weighed 64kg at the time.
I was sad about my bulky appearance so after months of lifting heavier and heavier and eating clean, changing diet round etc, I resorted to cardio and cycled to work and back. I still didn’t see a change.

In the end I gave up resistance training and did the atkins diet. Muscle atrophy has a positive effect on my physique for a while but now I am 63kg again without the muscle so I look worse :(

I’ve recently started resistance training again but I don’t want to bulk up like I did before. I’ve seen other girls in my gym in the weights section and they don’t have the body I desire either. They look like russian shot putters. I don’t want to look chunky like that. How do I do the resistance training but make ‘small’ muscles and little body fat?

I don’t want to get big muscles and still have body fat, which is what’s been happening.

Help please… I’m so desperate and feel like I’ve tried everything. :(

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    JC Deen - September 7, 2011

    can you detail what your routine and diet looked like before?

    Reply
      Jennifer - September 8, 2011

      Thanks JC Deen.

      I used to do a 5 part split and lift in the 6-8 rep range as heavy as I could. My diet was something like this:

      1. 3 egg whites, 20g oats
      2. cottage cheese or small can of tuna
      3. salad and white meat
      4. tuna can
      5. Lean meat and veg
      6. Optional protein shake if still hungry

      I took protein shake after my workout and had a multivitamin and a flaxseed oil tablet everyday.

      I saw results initially but I never went below 24% body fat or 57kg. I changed my workout after plateuing and did body weight exercises, kettle bells and finally resorted to 20km bike rides daily.

      I went as high as 64kg and I wouldn’t dare measure my bodyfat, the muffin top, squidgy thighs and the wobbly arms spoke for themselves.

      I even went to the doctor and he didn’t know what was wrong with me.

      Now I’m 28 and just started back on a training plan. It’s very basic at the moment but I’m hoping that if I treat REST seriously, hopefully I will see different results.

      Other girls I’ve seen at the gym had my problem. Just looking inflated rather than having small lean muscles revealed by low body fat.

      What should I do? Do I need steroids?! I am not willing to take stimulants and relluctant to take steroids unless it’s administered by an expert.

      Thanks for your help!

      Reply
        mm - October 20, 2011

        Sounds like you just need to lose weight. Remember, weight loss is 90% diet, the idea that exercise will make you lose weight is mostly an exaggerated marketing tool. (Exercise has a whole bunch of proven health benefits especially as you get older, but people are so obsessed with weight loss that’s what most people think about first – and perhaps the only benefit they can think of – when thye think of exercise, despite it being relatively ineffectual compared to proper diet)

        Perhaps you should look into paleo/evolution-based diets like Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint / his excellent website, Mark’s Daily Apple.

        You should also read Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calores to learn the messed-up history of nutrition “research” in the last century or so, and how the food pyramid/lipid hypothesis/calories-in-calories-out model of weight loss are either unproven or proven to be simplisticly false or harmful despite everyone being taught by the government that low-fat, high-carb (including high-neolithic, toxic grains) is the way to go…

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corinne - August 26, 2011

Great article! What strength training program would you advise for women? Generally speaking of course as I know everyone is ultimately different. But do you advise heavier weights and lower reps or lighter weights and more reps?

When is the part II of this article coming out, it sounds like it will be a great read as well!

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Reka - August 22, 2011

I1ve changed gyms two times because “experts” were telling me not to use big weights because I would bulk up. I rather quit the gym and found a better one both times, and I am still positive that those idiots still look the same while I’ve lost more than 50 pounds and got lots of strength from lifting heavy. Thank God, after three years I don’t look anymore like someone who needs fitness advice (didn’t need it back then, either).
But the problem is not only the fitness magazines. Here most girls who do ineffective cardio for hours don’t even read fitness magazines; they are just led to believe that their bodies are made of “weight”, and the less they have of it the better. One of them was even complaining me that now she needs two hours of aerobic class instead of one because her body got accustomed to it, and it sucks because with the aerobics (!!!) she gains muscle therefore can’t lose as much weight as she would by dieting only… it was terrible to hear, and I’m not the kind of person who just gives unwanted advice, I left that gym very soon so I still don’t know if she got smarter than that or not. But this whole “weight” thing, and neglecting totally the basic biological facts creates big problems for people who never get to the point to actually read into a fitness magazine.

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AshleyJ - August 1, 2011

Great article! I feel some irritation watching people (women especially) spending hours on the cardio equiment and not getting ANY results. I feel that through social media outlets and articles posted like yours; more women will start training the RIGHT WAY…hopefully! I’m a fitness competitor and lift as heavy as possible–in no way shape or form have I become BULKY. Thanks for such a great post! I’ll pass it along :) But one question, you think that it’s OK to skip breakfast or “fast?” If I do that, I find myself eating more at my next meal…

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    JC Deen - August 1, 2011

    hey, thanks for chiming in. I’m editing part II as I write this.

    and yes, I feel it’s okay to fast – been doing it for a long time. read this.

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linda - July 28, 2011

So if I wanted to get started lifting weights at home, do you recommend any videos or TV shows?

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    JC Deen - July 28, 2011

    nope, but I have an article coming out soon to give some ideas on how to get started…

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      Apel Mjausson - July 28, 2011

      I second Linda’s question. This is really important to me and many other women.

      Commercial workout DVDs are important not just because it’s practical to just pop one in the player in the morning but also because it gives legitimacy to this way of working out. In your article you’re giving an overview of all the many ways that women are pressured into wasting time on ineffective workouts and exercise will power to stay on counter-productive diets. It’s going to take a lot to counteract the social pressure of all these magazine articles, aerobics DVDs, jazzercise classes, patronizing advice from fitness coaches etc.

      The ideal would be a series of DVDs with a conventionally good-looking female celebrity and a female fitness trainer who go through balanced routines that require kettlebells, hand weights or similar. Bar bells are going to be a hard sell for many women, so that may come later. I’m probably not the only woman who associates bar bells with hairy, grunting guys who couldn’t spell Chardonnay if their life depended on it.

      Specially branded weight lifting equipment is a plus. It doesn’t have to be pink, in fact light blue or mint green may be better. Purple isn’t bad either.

      I realize that strength training should ideally be tailored to the individual’s goals, current fitness level etc. But, if women have to go to a dirty, stinky gym with very few other women and risk being ridiculed and/or hit on, nothing is going to happen. It doesn’t even matter if the gym is bright and shiny and men who ridicule or hit on women are barred the very first time, it’s the perception that counts. The social risk is too high. We need a way of doing this in our own homes. That will give many of us the confidence to eventually go to a gym, book some time with a trainer who will take us seriously and enjoy our new-found strength.

      Reply
        JC Deen - July 28, 2011

        Apel,

        First let me say that I totally understand what you’re saying. I currently work out at a box (commercial) gym right down the road and it’s about a 95/5 male to female ratio.

        The problem with a home DVD or study course is that it’s often generic and like you said, strength training needs to be tailored to ones goals. I wish this stuff could be simpler, but it’s not. I have an article coming out, the 2nd part of this one actually, that will address some of your concerns.

        Hopefully, it will offer some insight and options as to how to get some help with training and fitness. Great trainers are out there, you just have to know what to look for. I hope to point out how to find these trainers in the next article.

        JC

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Mysty - July 28, 2011

About 3 years ago I went and saw my dad’s personal trainer – he was a 60-something old school body builder. He asked me what I normally do and of course I said the same thing – “I do 20 reps of 5lb weights” and so on. He said “If you want to burn the fat, you must lift heavy.” He was absolutely right. He gave me a workout to follow and boy did it work. And I in no way “bulked up”.

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    JC Deen - July 28, 2011

    see!! I am not crazy!

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Jessica - July 28, 2011

I guess I’m one of those few girls that have a little bit more testosterone. I played softball year round starting at age 8 and I’m pretty hirsute for a girl (yay, laser hair removal!). As I have sporadically worked out through the years, I especially noticed muscle building in my legs=I lose weight but go UP one or two jeans size. This may be a silly question, but does it have anything to do with the way my muscle was built from years of softball?

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    JC Deen - July 28, 2011

    it is possible. I know of guys (myself included) who have a much easier time building strength and mass because they got started earlier when hormonal changes were happening within their bodies. So I think, yeah, it is possible from the previous activity. And you could very well be in the small group of high-testosterone females.

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Bigshanks - July 28, 2011

Hey man, a great post! Inspired me to write one of my own on the womens fitness. It amazes me the lies which are spoonfed to women who come to the gym seeking diet and training advice! I remember even being told by my boss to tell women only to do light, high rep workouts, for fear they would complain about the difficulty of a normal training programme. Check out my article, would love to hear your opinion on it.

http://evolvenutrition.blogspot.com/2011/07/one-thing-i-have-noticed-in-gym-is.html

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    Apel Mjausson - August 1, 2011

    Good article, Bigshanks. Some of the male commenters are unfortunately enforcing the myth you’re trying to bust. It would be nice if you could call them out on that.

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Ann Olson - July 4, 2011

Excellent post, but I must add I’ve never had a salad in my entire life – just a lot of chicken curry, protein cheesecake, and cheesy omelets 😉

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Claire - June 29, 2011

Saw this link on the Women’s Strength Training Network group on facebook
http://jezebel.com/5753287/womens-fitness-magazines-are-bullshit

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    shandor - June 30, 2011

    While I see some good points made in that article it seems to deride the fact that you have to track your intake. It also ignores the fact that, regardless of what is being said in those articles, more than 65% of American women are overweight and more than half of them are obese – with the numbers rising quickly. I agree all the fashion and hair stuff is garbage and has little place in a fitness mag. And there definitely needs to be much more education about the difference between skinny and fit, weight loss vs fat loss.

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Nia Shanks - June 29, 2011

So – what then are your thoughts on advanced female trainees who want to build more muscle?

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    JC Deen - June 29, 2011

    hey Nia. well, just like any other trainee – they’d probably need to start doing specialization training (only if they’re advanced enough). eating lots of food would probably help too.

    What about you? what are your thoughts?

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    shandor - June 30, 2011

    Steroids. But then you will look like a cartoon monster parading as a woman.

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Juliet - June 28, 2011

For the love of all that is awesome, thank you. I actually AM a female bodybuilder and can’t get bulky even while trying my hardest, if that means anything at all.

Tonight I deadlifted 215 lbs at just under 130 lbs myself, you don’t need to be big to lift big.

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Luke M-Davies - June 27, 2011

Hehe – I like the way you have played Devils Advocate and deconstructed these articles from the fitness market JC!

On the Eat More,Weigh Less article – point 5 is probably the most annoying for me. I do not go round pushing Eat Stop Eat or Fasting in people’s faces but I do like to extend my night time fast now and again, simply to save calories and get that ‘cleansed’ feeling if my diet has been slipping.

One of my recent posts on Cardio Fasting started with a fitness market rant: http://www.lmdfitness.com/training/cardio-fasting-fat-loss/
Exercising before breakfast is always a hotly bedated topic and these magazines would shun that approach it seems – but it has worked for so many in trimming off that stubborn fat. There is no One Size Fits All approach to Fitness!

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Yuri - June 17, 2011

Thanks for writing this article! It’s definitely an eye-opener for me as a female. I really want to get stronger so I’ll be sure to lift weights as much as I can instead of limiting myself.

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Marquita - June 17, 2011

Wow great article! My exercise routines have consisted mainly of cardio but after reading this and many other articles on heavy weight training I’m going to add it to my workout. I took a weight lifting class in high school and it totally reshaped me so I’m definitely going to get back into it! Thanks!

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    JC Deen - June 17, 2011

    wo0t! I’m all about less cardio and more weight training.

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Erica - June 15, 2011

Thank you! I’m a young woman who has been lifting heavy since October 2010 and I love it! I wish more of my friends were willing to try it. Hell, I had a tough time getting my husband to lift with me. I’m sending this to all the women I know!

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    JC Deen - June 15, 2011

    haha, that’s awesome. usually it’s the other way around! thank you for sharing my work!

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Annelie - June 14, 2011

Hi
Loved this! spot on… Ive been lifting heavy for a long time… this is the result on stage http://i306.photobucket.com/albums/nn251/annelie1979/69502_10150327394445517_761255516_15715334_862756_n-1.jpg
not very big… 169cm 55 kg there

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    JC Deen - June 14, 2011

    thanks for sharing the image. you look great! lots of pink dumbbells to get that physique??

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Nick Efthimiou - June 14, 2011

It’s a shame, as good as this article is, it will be seen by a few thousand people (just guestimating here, if you are getting hits in the 100’s of thousands or higher, kudos my good sir) only, most of whom are already interested in lifting.

And then this article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2002962/Christine-Bleakley-Frank-Lampard-matching-muscles-Las-Vegas.html

will be seen by closer to the millions, and further perpetuate the cycle.

Still, excellent article.

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Sabrina - June 14, 2011

Great article. A few years ago I gave up on personal trainers because most of them wanted to spoon feed me the same bad advice. The worst part is, I am naturally tall and thin and didn’t even need to lose weight, I needed to gain weight. :-)

There was one trainer who helped me a lot. At the first appointment, I had to argue with him that I did not want to do curls with stupid 3-lb dumbbells. He was pretty stubborn but finally saw that I was not backing down. Then he walked over and got 10-lb dumbbells for me. I just rolled my eyes and grabbed the 20-lb ones instead. I will never forget the look of utter glee when he realized I was strong and serious about getting stronger…and from that point on he kicked my ass all over the gym. :-)

It may sound stupid, but the one time when I’ve really seen women “get it” is in pole dancing class. It takes a lot of upper-body and core strength to do many of the moves, especially inversions (anything where you’re hanging upside down on the pole), and when women really want to learn how to do some impressive move they suddenly forget all about their fear of bulking up and just want to get stronger. (No doubt the inherent beauty and femininity of the movement helps with getting over that fear.) A friend of mine who has been dancing for a few years now can do one-armed pullups…I don’t even know any guys who can do that.

As Apel mentioned above, getting strong truly is an empowering feminist message! The best kind!

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    JC Deen - June 14, 2011

    wow, thanks for the response. I for one cannot do any one arm pullups. no way, no how.

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      Sabrina - June 14, 2011

      I can’t either, nor can I do two-armed pullups—but that is the most fun I’ve ever had trying to get there!

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Darya - June 14, 2011

I totally agree with you, and am a small female who lifts heavy weights, but I still think Jillian Michael’s looks like a dude/tranny.

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    Erica - June 15, 2011

    I so agree with you on JM looking like a tranny!

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Suzanne @ WorkoutNirvana - June 14, 2011

Meh… That’s why I only read Oxygen. But even that magazine overdoes it with the perfect bodies, esp in ads. We need to accept ourselves, lift da heavy stuff and pay attention to diet. Oh, and be grateful (or not) for genetics 😉

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Darren mcpherson - June 13, 2011

Hey jcd,

I’m not a fitness guru but I tell chicks to do 5×5 strength training all the time. But they never do. Regarding getting bulky, it’s never going to happen over night whether you are a chick or a dude. It takes lots of time, consistency and roughly the ring diet.

I’ve seen 1 chick do a relatively heavy squat, I almost asked her to marry me.

–success and no less dude.

Darren

P.s my strength training is working out great. I was very drunk and at a house party on Saturday, and was coerced into wearing my mates gf’s sports bra. to my horror there were videos and pictures on Facebook almost instantly. There were a lot of laughs but more compliments on the change in my physique. 5×5 ftw!

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    Darren mcpherson - June 13, 2011

    No idea what a ring diet is but i meant right diet… :)

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    JC Deen - June 13, 2011

    LOL at the last bit

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Vinícius Araújo - June 13, 2011

You wrote: “As I look at my phone, I have a text message from one of my girlfriends that reads:”

Dude, How many girlfriends do you have? :)

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    JC Deen - June 13, 2011

    depends on my location/time of the year but usually 2-3 at all times. 😉

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Josh Gould - June 13, 2011

Great read, totally appreciate the concern. -Josh

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Bruce - June 12, 2011

JC,
You are absolutely right … but very, very few women will listen to or follow through on your advice. If you really do know much about sales marketing you’ll know that your technically correct, common-sense advice will be praised (see the comments) but won’t be acted on. It will be drowned in a tidal wave of culturally supported commercial media that has to follow the money, not the simple truth.

The overriding cultural message to women is: Body image! – You should aspire to have “the perfect body” (i.e. hot, sexy, skinny) and you have to buy the right things and have to follow the advice of the right paid experts to achieve that perfect body. Just look at the covers of virtually every women’s magazine and in virtually all the commercials inside. The pictures say everything, the text and words are inconsequential.

Even when well-meaning, honest fitness gurus say their bit, it HAS to be within the framework of a commercial industry to be valued by most readers, otherwise they won’t be considered a guru.

The fact is, absolutely nobody, except the elite athlete or bodybuilder (and not even all of them) needs any supplements (just good food), sport drinks, this years shoe and clothing styles, trendy health club or current magazine subscription to become and stay fit. People were generally far more fit before there was a fitness industry (and I work in it) to tell them they were doing it wrong and how they should do it right. Sadly, very few people can make a living delivering common sense and truth that will actually be believed and followed. And if you do not publicly make a good living giving that advice, you will be discounted as an expert – in short you won’t be viewed as credible.

I have no doubt that most people already know what to do and how to do it, but I don’t know how to convince them to go with what they know. They have become filled with self-doubt, uncertainty and confusion by an industry that only offers what it has; expert upon expert (that includes you and I, buddy) with conflicting, number-laden advice surrounded by commercially motivated messages and advertising that tells them what they want to hear (3lb designer weights will do it, 10 minute easy workouts will do it, spot weight reduction is possible, intensity is bad, this pill, that powder, these drinks, invasive and non-invasive whatevers … I could go on.)

This is all as frustrating as hell to me, but I’m not sure what to do about it. When women ask my opinion about this (and they do), they are usually disappointed by the response. It’s not what they wanted to hear. They expected a quick-fix, some insider advice, an easy way around what they know is the truth. I see their attention wander and I know I’ve lost them.
JC, thank you for this article, but but, unfortunately, it’s an easy opinion to have. If you want a real challenge, find a way to get people to TRUST THEMSELVES enough to actually follow your advice (and their gut feeling) and get others to do it too. And if you really do figure this out, let me know.

By the way, most of this also applies to men, though some of the details are different … but that’s another story.
Cheers,
Bruce

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Rebecca - June 12, 2011

Awesome article! Probably one of the best posts I’ve read in a very long time!
As a female personal trainer – who weight trains 5-6 days a week, I constantly try to reinforce the fact that woman will not build bulky muscle just because they lift a few weights. So many people, including men (my father and brother live on the elliptical!) think that steady state cardio is the answer to all of their problems.
I love lifting weights. I do everything. I especially love to squat and deadlift. I lift more than any other girl I know and even some of the guys. It is so empowering. I go up in weight every few weeks and love to see my body change-a change that with cardio alone would be impossible. If anything, I feel more feminine and a hell of a lot sexier than I ever have! I have never once been considered, “manly” or “bulky.” Even when I am able to convince others of the positive effects of weight/resistance training, I can feel them holding back, unsure if they are “lifting too much” or “not burning enough calories.”
“How many calories does weight lifting burn?” Is a common question I get which proves that we live in a society that only focuses on calories in and calories expended and not the true, long term benefits of any fitness or nutrition program. It’s all about, “What will help me burn off that brownie I just ate?” Women tend to go for the machines that track calories/miles, etc. They find some sort of comfort in it (weather it’s calibrated to their age/body weight or not.) That is another problem.
I too, cannot stand the articles in the female fitness magazines. I also subscribe to several, Shape, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Muscle and Fitness Hers. Oxygen and Muscle and Fitness Hers are great. Shape is the worst out of the four, by far. That cover you posted is a great example of that.

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    Darren mcpherson - June 13, 2011

    Marry me….

    P.s joke, but u are awesome

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    Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday - June 17, 2011

    When I was a workout newbie I was all about the “calorie burn” information. I know most women are because, at my gym, they all flock to a particular elliptical machine that has a GROSSLY overestimated calorie burn.

    Now the only number I focus on are the weights and the reps. Every week I strive to lift at least as much as I did the week before. I look my best when I lift heavy and often. Too much cardio actually causes me to gain fat…I’m currently trying to lose the weight I gained while marathon training.

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      JC Deen - June 17, 2011

      thanks for chiming in. You’re right – the machines are not always accurate. I doubt that excess cardio would be the cause of making you gain body fat but I can think of a few reasons cardio could lead to that.

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Matt P - June 12, 2011

They even made a claim “regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk for obesity by 450 percent.” I don’t know where they got that from, but it’s pretty outlandish.The main thing I hate about this part is when they say “if you don’t eat (breakfast), you lower your metabolism, starve your muscles, and wind up taking in most of your calories late in the day.

I don’t have the citation right on hand but this came from one of those lovely observational studies that rely on statistical smoke and mirrors to generate conclusions which depend more on researcher biases than causality.

Apparently people who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to have a bad diet all around, i.e., making up for skipping a meal by eating more later, or being inattentive to their diet in general. If there’s one thing we do know, it’s that people who don’t make a deliberate and voluntary effort to regulate their food intake will almost always overeat.

Of course you won’t get that nuance. Authors will occasionally mention it in their discussion of results, though depending on conclusions drawn (and conclusions expected…) the mention may be just that. You can bet with near 100% certainty that headlines will jump straight to the sensational: “SKIPPING BREAKFAST INCREASES RISK OF OBESITY BY 450%”

In reality the raw data says no such thing. What you see is a correlation between mindless eating practices and health problems, but the framing of the data makes it impossible to see.

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    JC Deen - June 12, 2011

    Thanks for pointing it out. I’d like to see the study so I could see what you’re referring to but yea, it’s what I figured – something taken completely out of proportion.

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      Nick Efthimiou - June 14, 2011

      There was an article on Poliquin’s recently blog giving 10 reasons why you should eat breakfast.

      They were all related to correlations from observational studies and similar, which there is nothing wrong with – if people understand that.

      When one person chimed in about IF there an answer that didn’t really answer the poster’s question, rather just Poliquin stating he wasn’t a fan of IF.

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Anne - June 12, 2011

This should be required reading for every woman who’s not happy with her physique. Which is……every woman.

Buy the magazines, tear out the pictures that motivate you and put them up on the fridge door. Then shred the magazine, EAT and go lift heavy.

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    JC Deen - June 12, 2011

    haha, I like that last part – shred the magazines, EAT and go lift heavy. lol

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      Fred - June 13, 2011

      Surely, shred the magasines, place in a duffel bag and perform all manner of power exercises.

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Jo @ JAG's Fitness Blog - June 12, 2011

Really love this article! Lifting heavy weights helped me shed 50lb a few years ago with very little cardio. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances in my personal life, I re-gained about 35lb and am in the process of shedding it again with the help of Intermittent Fasting and heavy weights. I don’t do any structured cardio whatsoever – the only thing I do is walk as I don’t drive so if I have somewhere to go, my feet carry me.

My results have been phenomenal and lifting heavy has totally transformed my physique, given me a lean, firm body whilst still retaining my curves.

I am always advocating lifting heavy on my blog and will continue to do so.

Subbed to your blog, found it via Martin Berkhan :)

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    JC Deen - June 12, 2011

    Jo! Appreciate your comments. I’m glad to hear you’re pushing the heavy lifting message to other women.

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Monica - June 11, 2011

Wow this article was written for me lol I barely started working out (2 weeks ago) and i’m just in time to not be afraid of those heavy weights. I do have to tell you though that i was afraid of weights specially for my arms because i have a bigger upper body than a lower body and i was only doing weights for my legs just to try to level things out lol. I’ve been doing a lot weights for my legs and they’re starting to look great but i think it’s time to do it for my arms too. Thanks so much for this article, it is highly appreciated

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    JC Deen - June 11, 2011

    Glad this article was helpful, Monica. I hope you pop in now and again and let us know of your progress.

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      Monica - June 12, 2011

      Through google. I was doing some research about weights and women since I’m new at working out, I wanted to know more about. Luckily, I came across your article =) Thanks!

      Reply
        JC Deen - June 12, 2011

        I’m glad you came across the article as well!

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RJ - June 11, 2011

Bro-science for women = Bra-science?

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Sunfell - June 11, 2011

I’ve managed to carve off 30+ pounds and tone myself nicely with the Curves gym and sensible eating (Michael Pollan is my hero). Still, I want to take the next step, and have been contemplating taking up lifting weights- real weights, not those silly things they peddle to women. My main difficulty is finding a gym where I can learn how to do this and be properly coached.

Your article has given me a bit of motivation- my city’s fitness center is close by- and perhaps I can start working with their weights. Maybe they’ll allow me to grunt, too! (The one gym I looked at had signs discouraging such noise. I walked out.)

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    JC Deen - June 11, 2011

    I’m glad you were motivated. I hope you can find some solid coaching.

    whereabouts are you? I may know of someone in the area that could take you on.

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Apel Mjausson - June 11, 2011

Thanks for this post. How women can become physically strong is a (literally) empowering feminist message. It’s also great to see you point out that magazines aimed at women are playing on our fears.

Practical question: I’m currently using great 5 lbs weights: they’re neoprene covered and have a strap that holds them in place even if I lose my grip. No need to worry about accidentally braining myself in my pre-caffeinated morning exercise. :-) But 5 lbs is now feeling the way 3 lbs felt a couple of months ago — I don’t even notice I’m holding them. So I want to graduate to 7 lbs weights.

The problem: I can’t find any handheld weights above 5 lbs that are comfortable to hold and have a strap to keep them from becoming airborne if I lose my grip. If you know about any or know a way of jury rigging a comfortable strap, I’d love to hear it.

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    JC Deen - June 11, 2011

    lol. In part 2, I’ll give some tips.

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John - June 11, 2011

Hey I think I am going to print this out and give it to women next time I tell them to lift heavy and they tell me it will make them look like a man.

John

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Sean T - June 11, 2011

Great article! It’s funny to me how much “bro-science” girls seem to know about (at least in the nutrition department), and now i know why.

I couldn’t tell you how many times i tried to explain to girls in my dorm this past year who were going to the gym everyday and doing cardio for hours and then picking up the 3lb. dumbells and “toning” there arms that they were wasting there time.

And god forbid i told them that they didn’t have to live on lettuce and water to lose weight. I might as well have called them fat and out-of-shape by the way they reacted.

Now i see that they’re magazines are as bad and misleading as “FLEX” or any other muscle mag is for guys.

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    JC Deen - June 11, 2011

    no doubt on being misleading. those headlines sure draw people in.

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Isa O. - June 11, 2011

Woah…. Great article!

I’ve never touched a fitness magazine, and to be honest, I don’t think I ever will. Just by looking at the cover I can feel the bullshit oozing out of it…. I read quality material, and that is why I’m doing my first strongman(woman actually) competition after just one year of training. And I’ve never looked better!!

And also, when I needed to lose weight I did intermittent fasting for about four weeks, and easily lost 3kg/6.6lbs despite keeping the same diet and calorie intake. I combined this with Tabata intervals on a bike and really hardcore HIIT with weights.

I didn’t count on intermittent fasting to make such a difference, my plan was to first get used to the new ways of eating, then speed up the cardio, and then change my diet. I never once got on the treadmill or do any steady pace cardio. Just four minutes of tabata or six-seven minutes of HIIT. And only working out 3-4 times a week. How cool is that?!?

I’ve also made myself a sexy ass.

I try all the time to get more women doing the same stuff that I do, but the tendency is to give up after a week and start doubting themselves. I had a tough time getting into it as well, not because I thought in was boring or anything, it’s just hard to go up to the DB rack and grabbing some real weights, or even worse, taking the bar from the big bad guys!! I almost felt that I was silently apologizing for even being in the weight room. My work has really paid off though, and just after one year of training I can lift heavier weights than many guys at my gym who has been working out longer than I have.

Now I’m gonna go work on that bulkiness of mine ;] brb

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    JC Deen - June 11, 2011

    Isa, thanks for the comments.

    I agree – I think many women are often afraid actually getting started. Good on you for actually sticking with it.

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    shandor - June 12, 2011

    ” when I needed to lose weight I did intermittent fasting for about four weeks,and easily lost 3kg/6.6lbs despite keeping the same diet and calorie intake.”

    No you didn’t. IF is not some mystical caloric voodoo. If you lost weight its because you ate less. Add this bs to the list in the article.

    Also read Alan Aragon’s article on IF. Skipping breakfast is still a bad idea. And IF is not a panacea. More like am exude to binge daily and justify coffee addiction.

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      Karen - June 23, 2011

      Not so… I’ve been IF’ing for 4 months. I decided to try IF for maintenance because it looked like it would suit my lifestyle. I log my calories daily. I’ve lost 8 pounds now at the same calorie intake as before IF. Not voodoo… but something works!

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        shandor - June 26, 2011

        Then you are not counting correctly. The timing and size of your meals does not alter the law of calorie balance. Check out Leigh Peele’s video on how bad people are at counting. There is nothing magical about IF. Usually it’s just an excuse to binge and eat like crap with less consequences.

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          JC Deen - June 26, 2011

          perhaps she is counting incorrectly. However, intermittent fasting is not an excuses to “binge and eat crap with less consequences.” For some, that may be it, but for many, it’s a lifesaver from some unnecessary stress and neuroses.

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            shandor - June 27, 2011

            No, not perhaps, she is. Calories in vs calories out. If you think it isn’t, go take it up with Lyle.

            Secondly, Martin, the poster boy for IF, DOES BINGE on a consistent basis and uses this as marketing. Eating a whole cheescake in a single sitting. That is the definition of binging!

            I agree that this pattern of eating is probably very useful for many people and fits their schedules better. No issue there, but to suggest you can eat the same amount of calories and lose weight is flat out wrong and misleading. This is no different that the paleotards or Carbophobes. There is no magic, only results.

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Terissa - June 10, 2011

I’m bummed about not being able to get you my synopsis for this article so I want to add my two cents here —> Women, myself being one need to stop reading this bad advice. 10 years I sat on the hamster wheel getting nowhere! Oxygen told me I should be doing 1 hour of EPOC cardio, then weights ranging from 12 to 25 reps. Okay, what exactly does lift weights mean? The last 3 reps should be tough to complete they say. That still doesn’t tell me what weight lifting means. They don’t tell you what they should be and that.s to train like a man. In my opinion – they want to keep you buying their gimmicks and magazines for years to come by throwing nonsense at you. Now my legs with all that cardio were easy to get skinny; skinny-fat that is! I had triceps but because of genetics, but was lacking bicep, delt, back and chest for lack of a better word tone. All those hours and where were my muscles. ON THE TREADMILL is where they were, right where my body catabolized them to fuel those cardio sessions, and heck with the 1,000 calories I was consuming each day, my body needed fuel from somewhere. I understand jcdfitness’ frustration with the female mentality of getting big by lifting big weights. Save yourself the agony of hours of cardio and go lift those heavy weights. Throw them up like you were a man and forget about doing reps at 12 to 8,000 reps. Everything below 10 is where your magic is at. Not to mention you’ll be getting your cardio just from trying to push as much weight up as you can on that 5th, 6th, 8th rep. It’s the best workout of your life. I know because I just finished one and I completely enjoy the looks from the males and females. ALSO ladies, you need to EAT to develop that body and 1,000 kcal diet isn’t going to help you grow. Double that to 2,000 kcal – not all at once if you’ve only been eating like a bird for most of your life, but slowly increase them. After all you’ve probably damaged your metabolism and its going to need time to recover.

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Shannon - June 10, 2011

Another great article!! I am ONE of the few females in my gym, that I have seen lift anything over the 10 lb dumbbells. In fact, I lift probably about the same as half of the guys in the gym… but am I as near bulky or built as the guys… NO! Not even close actually!! Still always makes me laugh though, whenever a new female client of mine will look at me mid-workout, and say “oh no, I can’t lift that! If I do I will get all huge, and that is not my goal”

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    It’s funny how that works. it’s like this illusion that actually trying hard will make someone HUGE. Heck, guys really have to give it a lot of effort to grow. Imagine how hard it is for females!

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Mick - June 10, 2011

Hi,

Thank you for writing this article. I am a female and I used to buy these magazines because they were fun. Over time, I grew to love reading about fitness so I STOPPED purchasing these magazines. It seems that the majority of the pages are filled with beauty advice (i.e. best concealer, eye shadow, etc.) and each month I was welcomed with a similar workout with a different prop or background… none of which I was interested in reading. It saddens me to see women turning down weight lifting because they don’t want to ‘get bulky'; Us ladies should all strive to be strong!

I’ve found that Women’s Fitness Rx is the only fitness magazine with decent workouts and minimal beauty advice.

Thanks again :)

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    Ariel - June 10, 2011

    I totally went through the same thing – picked up a Shape thought “hey, it’s like cosmo with workout tips instead of sex tips, great!” And then I realized I wasn’t reading it or getting any information from it – it’s entirely fluff and bad advice.

    Anyway, these days i’m an Oxygen devotee. From your comment, I think you might like it as well. So little bullshit, and a lot of very solid info.

    Reply
      JC Deen - June 10, 2011

      haha, yea! I’m a fan of Oxygen. it has it’s fair share of crazy stuff BUT all in all, I like it better than shape or fitness.

      Reply
      Mick - June 23, 2011

      Thanks for the tip! I’ll check out Oxygen.

      Reply
SteveA - June 10, 2011

Great article. Clear, concise to the point. I wish women would read more of JCDFitness, then SELF and SHAPE would be calling JC to write for them.

Looking at an article title now, “12 Ways to think Slim- Skinny Ideas: Shed pounds simple by acting thin!”

Where do they com up with this stuff?

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Duff - June 10, 2011

Yea, even some pushups (on knees at first if needed), pullups (assisted with bands at first), and bodyweight squats would be a whole lot better than gazillions of reps of 3lb pink plastic dumbbells. I prefer bodyweight training for its portability and cheapness, but you have to engage those muscles. Bouncing around in an aerobics class ain’t gonna do it. That said, Pilates and yoga classes can be seriously hardcore. The sheer amount of B.S. and misinformation in popular fitness advice is crazy though.

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    hey Duff.

    yea, Pilates and Yoga can definitely be a workout for sure. I know I could stand to do more yoga.

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Tim - June 10, 2011

You’re link about metabolism increasing during fasting should read “short-term fasting”, not “prolonged fasting”. Just thought I’d let you know before someone gets confused by that.

Great article, as always.

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    good catch. thanks for that.

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Jessie - June 10, 2011

I love this article and absolutely agree!! I usually do 3 sets of about 8 reps each. At the end of my 8 reps I feel like I can’t hardly lift if again–the way I think someone is supposed to feel. I drink protein shakes and push for the most weight I can handle given good form and the above guidelines. Of course, being a woman, I have NEVER bulked up to look like a body builder, I just don’t have the testosterone for it. It drives me crazy to see other women holding 5lb dumbbells doing 40 reps. Keep up the great work JCD!

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    Yea, that’s how it should be – hard work. Thanks for chiming in.

    Reply
Brandon C. - June 10, 2011

Good stuff JC. The two points of your article that really stick out to me are:

1.) That if you see something/hear something/are told something enough, you believe it to be true regardless of how asinine it is.

2.) People are, by nature, motivated by fear.

If people are spoon fed the same BS for long enough it becomes accepted as a truth, or even a law even if there is nothing scientific to support it. I.E. “eat 6, 8, 27 small meals a day to stoke the metabolism”…

Things like this become “psychological rules” and people begin to fear breaking them. If they do, it can result in a considerable amount of anxiety.

We need more people who aren’t afraid to let go of dogmas.

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    thanks for the comments, Brandon. You’re right – the more we hear something, the more “real” it seems, despite how crazy a claim may be.

    Also, many of us are motivated by fear. The fear of loss, regret, or whatever. So, we often don’t venture out and attempt something different for fear of failure or disappointment.

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Raj Ganpath - June 10, 2011

Great stuff as usual JC! Its interesting how women fall for this when they are the most desperate. The typical situation goes like this…
– Woman realizes she needs to lose weight.
– Finds a trainer and starts lifting and eating.
– Loses weight (fat) @ ~ 1-2 lb/week for 3-4 weeks
– Stalls for just one week.
– Gets antsy.
– Reads said magazines.
– Starts stupid diet (Read: Stops eating) and running aroundwith 3 lb dumbbells.
– Loses 4 lb of weight (which is mostly muscle) in one week.
– Stops doing what her trainer asked her to do.
– Ends up feeling starved and like shit in 3 weeks.
– Ends up where she began in 4 weeks.
– Ends up fatter than when she begain in 6 weeks.

Sad sad sad!

On the other side, I would like to see you write an article on such magazines! Maybe you should write an article on the blog that looks exactly like how these magazine articles look (marketing, pictures, headlines etc.)… but with legit advice. With you design skills I’m sure you can pull it off! What say?

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Michael P. - June 10, 2011

I enjoyed the article, nice work. Hopefully this will enlighten some women out there

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    JC Deen - June 10, 2011

    Thanks Michael – hope it spreads far and wide. People need to be aware of this stuff.

    Reply
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